Class Acts: Hard work helps Huntley's Ferrante become a champ
It takes years of focus and hard work to become a state champion wrestler.
It takes the same discipline to earn the top weighted grade-point average in a class of approximately 750 students.
Huntley senior David Ferrante has achieved both.
Recently named to the Illinois High School Association Academic All-State Team, the 18-year-old future orthopedic surgeon said strong family support and understanding coaches have helped him balance athletics and academics. But the key, he said, has been proper time management.
Ferrante should know. His daily schedule has less wiggle room than a figure four leg lock.
During wrestling season his school day begins at 7:30 a.m. It was sometimes 6:50 a.m. when he was a junior due to an early bird class.
Of his six classes, five are advanced placement: Computer Science Principles, Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra, Economics, Literature and Composition and Physics C. He also takes honors Anatomy and Physiology.
After school it's off to wrestling. Practices usually end around 4:45, but he typically stays an extra 30-45 more minutes to do extra work.
The youngest of three brothers then heads home to parents John and Michelle Ferrante, takes a shower and eats. Homework begins around 6:30 p.m. Most nights he studies until around 11:30 p.m. He then gets some sleep and does it all over again.
"He wants to be the best at everything and he knows what it takes to be the best," Huntley wrestling coach B.J. Bertelsman said. "What he does doesn't just come naturally. This kid works his butt off on a daily basis."
Ferrante juggles academics and athletics at the highest level. The 170-pound wrestler repeated as state champion in February. With a little over two weeks left of online classes, he carries a weighted 4.699 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale.
While immensely proud of all he has achieved in wrestling -- a career he will continue at Northwestern -- Ferrante said he is even more proud to be named IHSA Academic All-State.
"I would not have been able to even have a chance for that award unless I performed at a high level on both fronts, so I am even more proud of it than the state titles alone," he said. "I definitely want to thank my mom and dad and my brothers, my coaches all my teachers and all my friends. Obviously, it's a support system."
The honors are not likely to change him. Those who know Ferrante describe him as a friendly, nice guy.
"He has one of the most guileless personalities of anyone I've ever met," said longtime Huntley math teacher Steve Styers, who instructed Ferrante in three AP courses over two years. "But if you underestimate him either in athletics or academics, you are going to be really mistaken badly. He is sharp and he knows it.
"I mean, he did an independent study with AP Literature. The teacher was telling me you would not expect the kind of insights in literature that would come from David because when first meeting him, you don't think that. But he's got that kind of mind. He's really an extraordinary individual. I have immense respect and it's been a real honor working with him these last two years."
Why become a doctor? Ferrante broke his first bone when he was eight. By his count, he has "probably broken 10 bones and torn three ligaments," he said.
Such early exposure to orthopedists in particular fascinated him. Through a program offered by the Huntley High School Medical Academy, he was later able to shadow some of the very surgeons who worked on him when he was younger.
It takes years of focus and hard work to become an orthopedic surgeon. That means four years at Northwestern followed by four years of medical school, a five-year residency and a fellowship of another year or two to develop a focus area.
Ferrante believes he has the discipline to meet that challenge.
"It will be a long road," he said. "It's a lot of studying and a lot of training. I know it'll be worth it, though. To be able to help people, to maybe be able to help future younger athletes like I was at one point, I think would be rewarding."